Eighty years are many more than those of Spanish democracy, equality policies and Eva Orue, but they are the ones that the Madrid Book Fair has completed without a woman at the helm. The 59-year-old journalist from Zaragoza will be the first director of an event that attracts more than two million people every spring in the capital, which allows the sector to breathe and which brings together authors, readers and booksellers in an event unique in nature.
Ask. For the first time a woman. How does it sound to you?
Answer. The phrase “for the first time a woman” associated with me is also the first time What happens to me and it surprised me, but sooner or later we have to get to everything. As it was, it has cost a lot in a sector in which women occupy great positions as readers, booksellers, editors or authors, but not in areas where decisions are made.
P. What is there to change in the geria?
R. I know what not to change: it is an extraordinary tool for booksellers and publishers and a fundamental meeting point for readers with authors. It is the only time that the two ends of the book chain meet. From there, it is about being more ambitious in cultural programming, that it is not something that goes on and off on those days, but that it is present all year round.
All the culture that goes with you awaits you here.
P. Compared to other fairs, the one in Madrid is associated with a flea market, with a stall.
R. It is a large market and it is essential that it remain so. It does not make sense to compare it with others because it is not a fair for the sale of manuscripts or negotiation of contracts, such as Frankfurt and here it is Liber. It is something else.
P. Blackfoot writers feel displaced by youtubers.
R. It is the Book Fair and the book is a device in which everything fits, the good, the bad, the worthy, the non-commercial or the commercial. Publishers need people who give money and not prestige to be able to have people who give prestige and not money, and they all have to be at the fair. Which does not mean losing the literary essence. I defend peaceful and productive coexistence because the publishing industry would not survive without best sellers.
P. Why do we read so little in Spain?
R. There is a question of education, dragged on for a long time, and also of concentration, because we are increasingly dispersed. We have a reading comprehension problem in young people, it is in the OECD reports.
P. Jump from journalism to cultural management. What will you miss about journalism?
R. The same thing that I am going to miss more: the urgent need to be aware of everything. I exercise analysis on radio and television and I confess the anguish it causes me to be able to say something wrong simply because I have not read the right article, the last tweet, and that is very distressing. I hope my new job gives me some peace.
P. And what will he really miss?
R. The colleague with friends, the influence, no matter how small, and the adrenaline. When the red light comes on in the study there is something inside of you that is activated. I am a radio woman.
P. He has also been with a communication company for 20 years.
R. It is a small company where I work with my wife and I organize myself as I want. We work a lot, but I’m my own boss. When I was a radio correspondent, first at Cope and later at Onda Cero, my way of approaching work was to explain to whoever listened to me the country in which I lived: France, the United Kingdom or Russia. In other words, I have not moved from the world of communication, I have been thinking about it and I believe that the Fair is a certain culmination of what I have been doing: information, cultural management and communication. I trust that I have been chosen in search of a good balance of the three legs.
P. What do you appreciate in culture versus politics?
R. Books are a gigantic mirror in which to look at ourselves and sometimes they allow us to understand ourselves better than an article. Reading books is another way of entering reality, and no worse than journalism.
P. So do you see culture and books as a territory crossed with politics?
R. It is what it is. Books and bookstores allow us to isolate ourselves from the world and at the same time allow us to understand it. You go into a bookstore or go into a book and isolate yourself, you are searching, touring, smelling, you are escaping and living other lives. But even in books that seek to get away from reality, what we are told is the life we are living or the life that others lived before.
Orue’s life will undoubtedly change that of the Book Fair.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.